Do Birds Feel Upset When You Touch Them? Research Suggests So


Article Summary

  • Birds Can Feel Upset When You Touch Them.
  • Magical sensory receptors are responsible for feelings or emotions.
  • Birds that like to be touched are parakeets, cockatiels, parrots, and budgies (read below).
  • Training can make your birds feel good about petting.

Are you thinking and trying to find an answer to the subject, “Do birds feel upset when you touch them?”

Yes, the birds get upset or sometimes aggressive when we touch them. Therefore, it is recommended to touch their head only so they can’t bite you.

In this blog post, we will discuss this topic comprehensively to inform you about the feelings of birds when they are touched.

So, let’s start.

Do Birds Feel Upset When You Touch Them? Yes They Do

Birds are often seen as gentle creatures. However, this does not mean they do not feel upset when touched. Birds can feel a variety of emotions, and they can be susceptible to touch.

Some people believe that birds do not have the same emotional capacity as mammals, so they cannot feel upset when they are touched.

Others believe that birds do have the power to feel emotions, but they may not express them in the same way as mammals.

There is still no definitive answer to this question, but some evidence is that birds may feel upset when touched.

Do birds feel upset when you touch them? Yes, they feel stress.

A study published in “Conservation Physiology” reported that birds who were sighted or touched by humans showed signs of stress, such as increased heart rate and cortisol levels. Birds touched by humans were more likely to avoid contact with humans in the future.

Why Do Birds Feel Upset When They Are Touched? 3 Reasons

There are a few reasons why birds may feel upset when they are touched.

  1. Firstly, they may not be used to being touched by humans. This can be especially true for wild birds.
  2. Secondly, they may be feeling threatened or frightened. If a bird feels in danger, it may become upset. If you touch a bird by putting it in a cage, it will get upset with the touch.
  3. Finally, birds may not like to be touched like some other animals. Each bird has its personality, traits and behavior. Some parrots get irritated and frustrated when they are touched.

How Do Birds Feel When You Pet Them? Magical Sensory Receptors

Birds have sensory receptors all over their body, including their feathers. When you pet a bird, these receptors are stimulated.

Petting a bird is called preening. Parrots use their beaks for preening, digging or cracking nuts. Sometimes, birds enjoy it, while sometimes, they get upset or aggressive. It depends on the way you touch the bird or the specie of the bird.

There is no scientific consensus on how birds react when they are petted. Some bird owners report that their birds enjoy being petted, while others say their birds seem uncomfortable or agitated when touched.

Brian L. Speer, Campbell Thornton, and Gina Spadafori wrote in their book Birds for Dummies;

Birds have a rich nerve supply, which can help explain why your bird may be more sensitive if you touch a pin feather incorrectly.

Different species of birds may react differently to being petted, and it is also possible that individual birds within the same species may have different reactions.

Birds' physiology and behavior show that they feel upset when touched.

When considering petting a bird, it is vital to carefully observe its body language. If the bird is flapping its wings or trying to move away from you, it is probably best to avoid petting it. However, if the bird remains still and seems relaxed, it will likely enjoy being petted.

Which Birds Like Getting Touched? Each Specie is Unique

There are various birds worldwide, and each has unique preferences—some birds like getting touched while others do not.

Some birds like getting touched include parakeets, cockatiels, parrots, and budgies. These birds enjoy being petted and scratched. They often enjoy being around people.

Meanwhile, some birds do not like getting touched. These birds include many species of parrots, as well as some species of sparrows. These birds get scared and may even bite if they feel threatened.

If you are unsure whether a particular bird likes getting touched or not, it is always best to do some research. In this way, you can avoid any potential bites or scratches.

Do Birds Abandon Their Young Ones When You Touch Them? A Misconception

It is commonly believed that birds abandoned their young ones when we touched them.

People believe that when they pick a baby bird, mother birds can sense the smell of residue of a human hand on it. Therefore, the mother bird abandons their offspring. That’s not true.

Birds feel love for their babies and they don't abandon them when touched

According to a biologist at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, the sense of smell in birds is not so strong. So, the mother bird does not know if you touch her young ones in her absence.

Birds have feelings of love for their young ones and they don’t abandon their babies so quickly. So, it’s a myth that birds leave their young ones when touched.

How To Train Birds To Allow Petting? A Brief Guide

A beloved pet bird can quickly become an integral part of the family. While most birds are not naturally inclined to want to be petted. You can teach your bird to enjoy being petted with patience and training.

Here is a brief guide on how to train your bird to allow petting.

  1. Choose a young bird that is not yet fully grown. This is essential because it will be easier to train a bird that is not yet set in its ways.
  2. It is crucial to establish a bond with your bird. Spend time talking to your bird and offering it treats.
  3. Once your bird feels comfortable with you, you can begin the petting process. Start by slowly extending your hand towards your bird.
  4. Start by petting the bird on its head and back. Use your fingers to stroke the feathers gently. As the bird gets used to this, you can begin to pet it all over its body. Be sure to move slowly and give the birds time to get accustomed to your touch.
  5. If your bird does not seem interested or is resistant, back off and try again later. If your bird allows petting, continue doing so for a few seconds before stopping. With time, you can slowly increase the time you spend petting your bird.


There is no clear evidence of whether birds get upset when touched or not. Some birds feel stressed when touched, while others enjoy being petted.

So, it varies from specie to specie. Do you have any pet birds? How does a bird reacts when you touch it? Share the behavior of your bird with us.


  1. Ursula Ellenberg, Thomas Mattern, Philip J. Seddon, Heart rate responses provide an objective evaluation of human disturbance stimuli in breeding birds, Conservation Physiology, Volume 1, Issue 1, 2013, cot013,
  2. Bermingham-McDonogh, O., & Reh, T. A. (2011). Regulated reprogramming in the regeneration of sensory receptor cells. Neuron71(3), 389-405.
  3. Parrots by Julie Murray Published by Big Buddy Books
  4. Birds For Dummies By Brian L. Speer, Campbell Thornton, Gina Spadafori
  5. Weldon, P. J. (2022). Does human scent bias the survival of bird nests? Ibis164(1), 1-12.
  6. Fact or Fiction?: Birds (and Other Critters) Abandon Their Young at the Slightest Human Touch By Robynne Boyd
  7. Do Birds Really Abandon Their Chicks If Humans Touch Them? By Rose Eveleth

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